“When we drop the compulsive habit of trying to fix ourselves, and replace it with a growing capacity to meet ourselves exactly as we are with presence, compassion and unconditional acceptance, transformation occurs by itself”.
Matt Nettleton; Co-Founder and Trainer of Embodied Processing
“The Bottom Up Approach to Healing Trauma and Nervous System Dysregulation
The intention of Embodied Processing
The intention of Embodied Processing is to help you identify and process ‘stuck’ emotions and imprints of stress and trauma in your body (the threat) which may be causing physical symptoms (the alarm).
Improve Somatic Awareness
Connect with your ‘felt sense’ – the physical experience of being you, in your own body – otherwise known as Somatic Awareness
Improve Emotional Awareness
Connect with your emotions – otherwise known as Emotional Awareness
Become more connected with your body and your Self
When the alarm sounds, we feel physical and emotional pain, eg tightness across the shoulders, tension in the lower back or the knot of anxiety in the belly. Typically, we respond by resisting or distracting ourselves from the pain / the discomfort. The result? We become even more disconnected from our bodies and from our Self!
Embodied Processing can help resolve your pain
With Embodied Processing we know the symptom is only the alarm so we don’t start here – we find and process the ‘Stressor that is setting off the alarm.
To do this we build a foundation of safety and capacity to contain, process and integrate the discomfort, remove the emotional charge and switch off the alarm.
Embodied Processing uses compassionate inquiry where it may be useful to find the origin of the stress, which is particularly useful for developmental trauma. This is not always necessary however, as the approach is somatic, we use your ‘felt sense‘, there is no requirement for you to go into the story if you do not wish.
An example to describe the release of stress / emotional charge:
An animal is chased by a predator. The animal’s survival physiology (the stress response) takes over and it either runs (flight), fights (fight) or plays dead (freeze). In the animal’s body, chemicals are released to support the stress response. The animal escapes, the stress chemicals and energy in the animal’s body then need to be released. The animal will shiver or shake itself off following the attack, in order to discharge and complete the stress cycle.
Humans are often not very good at this:
While we are unlikely to be in life or death situations regularly, our brains treat everyday stressors in the same way. Our survival physiology (the stress response) takes over. In our bodies, chemicals are released to support the stress response. If we don’t take steps to complete the stress cycle, ‘stress chemicals’ and ‘stress energy’ continue to course through our bodies, our body will adapt but, eventually, this will manifest as physical and emotional pain.
Learn to listen to your body
Being more connected with your body can be described as being ‘embodied’. This is a way of being that can be worked on and improved over time, with very simple exercises. Mindfulness can be a good starting place, taking time to notice what you are feeling and where you feel it in the body.
Engaging in more physical practices is helpful for some, such as yoga, pilates, dance or any other movement practice where you can find your flow and focus on the movement of your body and your breath.
- when you are scared: you might feel your heart racing or your stomach flipping.
- Or when you are feeling upset: you feel your heart sinking, or your stomach tied in knots.
We feel all of our emotions directly in the physical body, but we often don’t pay attention to these parts of the experience, we just concentrate on our thoughts.
Develop your felt sense of safety
When dealing with the brain you have a left and a right side – rational and emotional. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain goes off to signal you are in danger, no amount of insight or reason will silence it. The reason for this is our survival drive is stronger than our personal sense of willpower.
It’s not enough for your rational brain to tell you you’re safe, you need to FEEL safe. Hence the importance of developing a felt sense of safety. This is an important foundation of Embodied Processing.
Life experiences which involve emotional distress, survival stress and / or trauma are often stored as unprocessed constricted energy in our body. This is usually because at the time it didn’t feel safe, consciously or subconsciously, to process the feelings related to those experiences.
Embodied Processing is a technique used to safely meet and digest unprocessed life experience. We will create a safe space to focus on your direct bodily experience and the sensations and emotions that arise.
Some people find it very difficult to be in touch with their bodies. People with a history of trauma have often learnt to dissociate from their physical feelings in order to cope with difficult emotions. Working with a trauma-informed therapist like myself can help you to slowly learn how to get back in touch with your body.
Disconnection from the body is also very common with people who have been taught from an early age that feeling a certain emotion is bad, anger is a good example of this, it is very British to be told to ‘keep calm and carry on’.
Disconnection from the body can also occur as a result of having to cope with chronic pain.
It can be helpful to combine Somatic Therapy with Bodywork.
How can Embodied Processing help you?
A Somatic Therapy like Embodied Processing can be helpful for a range of concerns, but it is particularly supportive for the following:
- Chronic pain
- Addictive behaviours
- Digestive disorders
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Cheeta: Sammy Wong on Unsplash
Person with scarf: Aditya Saxena on Unsplash